I am sure you’ve all heard the rumours surrounding Citrix, yes? That they are supposedly working together with Goldman Sachs on a potential sale process, no? Have a look here, here or here and here. Whilst this might be true or not I thought this might be a good time to reflect and have a look at how Citrix became the company they are today. A (high level) history lesson if you will.
Citrix is an American software company founded back in 1989 by Edward Iacobucci, a former IBM developer. Citrix’s first office was located in Richardson, Texas, and would later that year be relocated to Coral Springs, Florida, housing 18 FTE already. While they actually started out as Citrus Systems, shortly after an existing company claimed the trademark rights to that name they changed it to Citrix, as we know it still. In its early days the company primarily focused on developing remote access products for Microsoft Operating systems, OS/2 at the time.
As a result, and after two years of development, Citrix released their first product, named Citrix Multiuser, which was actually an extension to the OS/2 platform. This is where the ICA protocol, or the Independent Computing Architecture was born.
FMA fact: The ICA protocol originated with Citrix Multiuser, around 1990 / 1991, meaning that the ICA protocol is actually over 25 years of age already.
They acquired / licensed the OS/2 source code from Microsoft (and basically became BFFs from then on) and built the ICA protocol from the ground up, the main ingredient for Citrix Multiuser version 1.0 at that time. The software allowed multiple users to work from separate computers remotely accessing software from a server: sounds familiar, right? Today they provide server, application and desktop virtualisation, networking, Software as a Service (SaaS), and various cloud computing technologies. It has been quite a journey.
Around the same time that Citrix released their Multiuser product, Microsoft announced to move away from the OS/2 platform over to Windows. This basically left Multiuser version 1.0 useless unless some significant changes were to be made to its base code, making it compatible with both Windows and DOS.
Shortly after that, while Citrix was on the verge of closing, multiple investors (including Microsoft) kept them on track, leading up to their second big release, Citrix Multiuser version 2.0, also referred to as Multi-Win back in 1992: fully compatible with Microsoft DOS and it allowed up to 5 users simultaneously.
In the meantime they signed a license agreement with Microsoft (which has been renewed multiple times throughout the past couple of years) allowing them to use the Microsoft NT (3.5) source code for building an even more robust remote access protocol, improving the Independent Computing Architecture, which by then was already patented by Citrix. Citrix basically modified Windows NT, turning it into a multi-user platform.
This content is partly sourced from my book: Inside Citrix: The FlexCast Management Architecture, you’ll find it here
And while there were some struggles between the two, since Microsoft basically funded Citrix (when they were on the verge of closing as highlighted earlier) to develop the ICA protocol and now they wanted their piece of the pie, eventually they became friends again and Microsoft ‘licensed’ Citrix’s ICA protocol for use with Windows NT 4.0, 5.0 and onwards. However, at this time Microsoft was still empty-handed from a remoting protocol point of view.
With this renewed agreement, for which they (supposedly) paid good money, by the way, (not sure how much though) Microsoft regained the opportunity to make use of Citrix’s ICA technology and to come up with a potentially competing protocol themselves; this is where the RDP protocol found its origin, based and built on the technology and ideas of Citrix.
WinView and Frame
Anyway, shortly after that, in 1993, they launched a new product named WinView, which was able to run both DOS and Windows applications and the company grew to over 65 employees in total during 1994. In the meantime they also launched their first Citrix-authorised re-seller programme, signed up Tech Data as their first official national distributor and achieved a net revenue of 10 Million $, impressive to say the least.
This all led up to the 1995 launch of Citrix WinFrame, a true multi-user Operating System based on Microsoft’s NT technology: at that time it allowed up to 15 users simultaneously, and I guess the rest is history.
In 1997 they opened a new headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and after serving as the Vice-President of Marketing, Mark Templeton became the new Citrix CEO, a role which he had up until 2015, and with great success, I might add. Many love Mark; unfortunately I never had the pleasure to meet him personally. When Citrix celebrated their 20th anniversary they put together a PDF document highlighting all of their milestones during those 20 years. You will find it here:
That about wraps it up. Let’s wait and see how this time-line continues to develop going forward. If you feel I left something out, or you might know about a few additional interesting details please feel free to leave a comment and/or send me a private message.